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Letter to Family and Friends
Written Jun 14, 2011 11:55pm
This is a letter I sent to my family and friends a couple of days before I started chemo about 5 weeks ago. We had made it through our move to Utah, and were getting settled in. I had been too emotional to talk about this to most people, but finally wanted to unburden myself before beginning treatment by telling everyone I should. I felt like it would help me mentally “get my game face on” for chemo. I thought that writing this, and getting it out there, would help me toughen up a little for the battle ahead.
I have recently been diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. I have had surgery, and will begin chemotherapy on Friday. Some of you know about this, and some of you don’t. I am sorry to tell you in this blog if you are hearing about it for the first time. It has been hard to tell everyone personally all about this, and I took some time this evening to write to my family and I decided to forward that email on to all of you so that you can know what is going on with us. I love each of you and wanted to share this with you. Here is the email I sent to my family:
Okay, so I know I have needed to write an email and update you guys on what is going on, etc.., but it has been extremely hard with moving and doing doctor’s appointments, and taking care of our family all at the same time. Plus, it has been good to have a little time to get some perspective on things.
So we went to Huntsman last week, and decided to stick with them (as I thought I would). My doctor is “Dr. B”. She is the medical director for the breast cancer clinic of Huntsman, so she should know her stuff. She also was very kind and a good listener, and had good thoughtful information to give.
I wish she would have had some different diagnosis for me, or a much better prognosis, but my prognosis is still the same. I am not saying this to be negative, but just because I have been told this several times now, and I think it is because they try to be realistic or something with patients. The best description she gave about stage 4 breast cancer was that at some point cancer spreads too much for them to permanently get rid of it. It is possible that the first round of chemo could reduce or even get rid of the cancer that we know about so that it does not even show up on a PET scan, but they feel that on a cellular level it will not all be gone, and that at some point it will come back somewhere. It is very positive if we can “get rid” of it this first time though, because it could be a few years before we deal with anything again.
My course of treatment will be very aggressive. We will do 8 rounds of chemo, two weeks apart. This makes it more powerful when you reduce the time in between rounds. Most places only do it 3 weeks apart, but they have some good drugs to help my white blood cell count go up between treatments so that I can handle the higher intensity of this kind of chemo. I will also have plenty of anti-nausea drugs at my disposal, and they feel certain that I should not be vomiting or anything like that throughout treatment. Fatigue will probably be the biggest issue.
After chemo, we will radiate the areas where I had the lump, and lymph node area, as well as the three areas that have advanced to my bone. This can really help, and can even alleviate pain in those areas. (Although I don’t really have any pain there, just some sensitivity.)
After that I will probably have my ovaries removed, and begin an anti-hormone regimen. This can be a very effective treatment for cancer that has spread to the bone. In fact, one of my options was to begin with this treatment and do chemo later.
I may take Herceptin to counteract the HER-2 positive result I got for my type of cancer. But there is some dispute about that, because I got another test back that says that I am HER-2 negative. That would be good if I was negative, but even if you are negative (it is a sliding scale) you can benefit from this treatment, so we will request to get it anyway. I think Dr. Buys is open to that even though it is a 100,000$ treatment!
I will be on the hormone suppression therapy for the rest of my life, and we will do frequent PET scans to check for cancer and treat it as needed.
So on to how we are feeling about all of this. I say “we” because Branden and I are definitely in this together, and have talked at length about all of this. We have both been very emotional at times through this, but we are also beginning to get more hopeful and trying to be strong for the battle ahead, come what may.
There are some people (1-3%) who actually beat Stage 4 breast cancer long term. But the doctors don’t say it’s curable. There are also those who fight a good fight for many years (20-25)but only about 10% live past 10 years, and about 20% live past 5 years. These are not good odds, but I am similar in many ways to those who have either been cured, or who have lived many years.
I am young, healthy, I eat right and exercise regularly, and I am not having any symptoms to begin with. I am optimistic, and will be tough throughout treatment. (Some people simply wimp out of treatment at some point and give up, and that is not an option for me.) My cancer is stage 4 because it has spread beyond the lymph nodes, but I would say “barely”. It is only in three spots, and it is better that it has spread to the bone than to any of my organs. The types that occasionally beat this or live for a longer time are usually ones that have spread to bone only. Also, Branden and I are being very proactive in seeking out the latest and best treatments for this. I am preparing for the side effects in all the ways I can, and I am actually wanting to get going on this treatment. BRING IT ON!!! I have a wonderful husband who is the love of my life, and 4 beautiful children who are young and need me for a long time still. Branden and I started this family together, and I am determined to raise these children with him! I believe that it is possible to beat this cancer, and if anyone can, I believe I can, if it is in Heavenly Father’s plan. I am tough physically, spiritually, emotionally, and I am surrounded by love and have the best support around me possible.
This whole thing has turned my world upside down. I have always been pretty introspective, but it is another thing to have my mortality hanging by a thread. I know that we are all mortal, but I don’t normally think about it too often. It is a good thing to think about, because it makes us want to live our lives in the way that we really want to. I don’t want to go on a big European vacation or anything like that, I just want to raise my kids in the best way I can, have a happy relationship with Branden, and do some good in this world. I want to enjoy Alec, Lily, Max, and Macy more, and I want to actually follow through more with some of my good intentions. I want to do whatever Heavenly Father has planned for me. I don’t feel like my mission in life is complete yet, and I feel like I have much good I can do with the rest of my life. I think this will just be a really good refining process, and I know we all have to go through difficult things in life to help us come closer to what God wants us to be. I love my Heavenly Father with all my heart, and I trust in Him completely. I love each of you reading this email, and I will do my best to be brave through all of this. I feel that I have many more years to come in my life, but I just wanted to share some of these thoughts with you.
Thank you for all your love and prayers. A lot of good can come from difficult things, and I see a lot of that already in the outpouring of love and kindness from each of you and from many more people around me. It is a good example to me.